Waite High School’s historic football tradition includes state, even national championships — games played at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, and invitations to the team to visit the White House.
Dozens of Waite players went on to play professionally — the majority in the NFL’s early years before World War II.
Genoa’s storied gridiron history dates back 80 years, but it does not include notoriety on a national scale. Waite is celebrating its 100th season of football this year, but its last City League championship came in 1963. Genoa’s championships are still coming today.
|This painting of a tradional Waite-Scott Thanksgiving game,
which typically drew 20,000 fans, is on display at the Weber
Block, Front and Main Streets in East Toledo. (Press file
photo by Ken Grosjean)
Waite did defeat Oak Harbor 19-7 in 1915 and over the past century defeated Lake twice. Waite has an 11-10 record all-time against Cardinal Stritch Catholic, but Clay leads the Oil Barrel Trophy series against its east side rival by a 31-12-3 mark. The Waite-Clay series began in 1961, long after the storied years under coaches Jack Mollenkopf and Don McAllister.
The Waite program’s early history includes multiple state championships. In 1924 and 1932, the Waite team was declared national champion and one year was invited to the White House.
The 1922 schedule was typical — Waite defeated Cleveland West Tech 76-0, Doane Academy 71-0, Louisville Male (Ky.) 34-0, Harrrisburg Tech (Pa.) 52-7, Chicago Lane Tech (Ill.) 66-0, Parkersburg (Va.) 55-7, Cedar Rapids Washington (Iowa) 13-2, South Bend (Ind.) 67-6, and Malden (Mass.) 18-0, losing only to west side rival Scott, 15-14, on Thanksgiving Day.
In 1924, finishing 10-0, Waite closed with a 46-0 defeat over Boston Everett (Mass.), and the 1932 team finished a 12-0 season with a 13-7 victory over Miami Senior (Fla.). The Waite teams do not travel across country by train anymore and the demographics of East Toledo have changed, but Howard and second-year Genoa coach Tim Spiess are expecting plenty of excitement Friday night.
Like Waite’s current Mollenkopf Stadium and the former 20,000 seat Waite Bowl that sat where the baseball field is now located, Genoa’s former Bergman Field on Route 163 saw multiple championships and record-setting players and coaches.
Henry W. Bergman Field hosted Genoa football beginning in 1933, with lights for night games added in 1948.
Some of the earliest star athletes include fullback and middle linebacker Harold “Perk” Avery (1937), fullback, linebacker, and kicker Harold “Oosie” Dunn (1926), Robert Samsen (1947), Tom Spitler (1966), and all-state running back Alfredo Lozoyo (1977) — they were the first group inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
Firestone (109-60-6) was football coach from 1959-76 and his teams were consistently successful in the Northern Lakes League while Eastwood and Elmwood usually struggled, but each of them did have one championship.
Genoa was the only one of the three to have an all-time winning record against the mostly bigger NLL schools, finishing 70-54-4 against league competition. In the Suburban Lakes League, the Comets were 39-6-2 under Firestone with three SLL championships, including a perfect 10-0 season in 1975.
Earliest coaches inducted include James Firestone and John Roberts, and the earliest public address announcer is Jack “Voice of the Comets” Werner.
Other early induction classes included Coach Dave Hitchen (1977-82), players Bob Baird (1959), Victor Libbe (1958), Gary Mathews (1977), James Berkey (1961), Joel Pinkerton (1970), Andrew Szypka (1980), James Duvall (1966), Dan Van Etten (1963), Fred Koester (1959), Eric Wolfe (1966)J. Clark Pinkerton III (1965), and statistician Lamar W. Bower (player from 1939-41), and the list has continued to grow since 2004 when the football field was moved to the school campus on Genoa-Clay Center Road.